Theater Shooting Suspect Appears in Court; District Attorney Weighs Option of Death Penalty

BY Murrey Jacobson  July 23, 2012 at 3:46 PM EDT

Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes makes his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County Justice Center on July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colo. Photo by RJ Sangosti-Pool/ Getty Images.

James Holmes — the suspect in the shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo., in which 12 people were murdered — appeared in court for the first time Monday, looking motionless, dazed and, at times, half-asleep. His hair was dyed a bright red-orange and he did not say anything during the 15-minute appearance.

The advisement hearing before Judge William Blair Sylvester came after Holmes, 24, had been held in solitary confinement at an Arapahoe County detention center since the attack at a movie theater Friday, where there had been a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” In addition to the dozen individuals who were killed, 58 people were wounded in the attack, some of whom are still in critical condition.

During Monday’s hearing in a packed courtroom, prosecutors said they would file formal charges against Holmes next Monday. Much of the immediate discussion and reaction online was focused on Holmes’ dazed state, which you can see in the video below.


Police say Holmes, who is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder and will likely face multiple other charges, has not been cooperating and has not disclosed any information about possible motives. The former doctoral student has been assigned a public defender.

In a press conference shortly after the hearing, District Attorney Carol Chambers said she is considering pursuing death penalty charges against Holmes, but wants to discuss that decision with families of the victims first. They will have 60 days after Holmes’ arraignment to pursue the death penalty, so that decision may be “months down the line.”


Security is said to be tight at the lockup in Centennial, Colo., where Holmes is being detained and where the court hearing was held. Uniformed sheriff’s deputies were stationed outside and deputies were positioned on the roofs of both court buildings at the Arapahoe County Justice Center, the AP reported.

The Associated Press also reported that the father of slain shooting victim Alex Teves sat in the front row during the hearing with his eyes fixed on James Holmes.

More of our coverage on the shooting in Colorado: